Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 50 seconds

Managing Documents Everywhere

Andy Smith, Thomson ReutersWhile document management focused on how paper turned into data and moved around inside a tax and accounting office, there is an increasing emphasis on how documents are made available to clients. And that means making them available through portals and accessible via mobile devices.

"The big trend is in collaboration tools. Document management is really a enabling of collaboration and providing of accessibility," says Andy Smith, a product manager with Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.

Thomson provides document management capabilities through its FileCabinet CS and to larger firms on the web via GoFileRoom. Client Access is provided through the NetClient CS portals.

The situation is the same with rival Wolters Kluwer CCH where document management is helping drive users to the company's Axcess cloud suite.
"We have had a lot of adoption of document management of CCH Axcess," says product manager Jerry Connor. Axcess not only offers a document module, but also introduced CCH's first portal product.

Similarly, document management represents a major part of the product suite from AccountantsWorld. CEO Chandra Bhansali notes scanned documents are linked to accounting entries in his company's products ,"Everything that is scanned can be tied into data in the accounting system," he notes.

Generally, companies with document management systems support scanning of source material to minimize the amount of paper wending its way through firms so that documents are more easily accessible in digital form and so that they can be shared and routed through the proper professionals. With the growing use of portals, various ways of capturing document mean clients can upload files and firms can publish files to clients.

With CCH Axcess, the company's web-based platform, the Document, Tax and Portal products are frequently used together.

"The two products [Document and Portal] are very tightly integrated," says product manager Damon Russel. "Firms can send files to Document from Tax and then to the Portal. Clients can easily upload files to the portal." Uploaded files automatically appear in Document where firms attach metadata for tracking.

Russell sees two primary types of Portal users—the 1040 clients who launch it once a year to uploaded tax documents and business clients who use portals throughout the year. Firms upload files and notifications are sent to the clients.

CCH has seen growth in both in its desktop ProSystem fx Document and cloud-based Axcess Document, the latter showing high percentage growth since there is a smaller base of users. The number of Axcess Document users grew 200 percent from 2013 to this year, while storage doubled Russel says.

Thomson's Smith noted that in document management, "The big trend is in collaboration tools. Document is really a enabling of collaboration and a providing of accessibility." Where multiple firm members are involved in an audit engagement or in tax, where reviewers and preparers handle the same documents, "you want simultaneous access to documents." He also notes that by making documents available remotely the systems, "accommodate the people coming into the profession", including those that may want to work remotely or may need to do so

AccountantsWorld's Bhansali notes the importance of having images tied to accounting records. "Suppose I have paid a bill for AT&T," Bhansali says. "If I see details on AT&T, I click on the icon and image of the bill will appear. All transaction any supporting documents are already tied to that particular field."

The shifts in technology are changing how documents get into digital firm. Concur for sometime has enabled cellphone users to take photos of receipts and upload them to companies for expense reporting. That capability is also being used in Kashoo, a low-end accounting package that was tailored for mobile use

"It is far easier to take a picture a receipt than it is to scan it," says Kashoo CEO James Secord. He believes mobile technology will help firms by providing a flow of source documents throughout the year, rather than having them arrive in a flood during tax season. The practice should also help firms provide better service.

"That changes workflow. You can ask questions when it is more relevant," says Secord. And obviously, the questions can be asked in a more timely fashion instead of months after the fact.

Those capabilities are likely to be offered by most software companies addressing the tax and accounting market. CCH currently does not offer that support of documents photographed in the field. But it is coming.

That is certainly something we are working on with development," says Russel "We are trying to working with our partners to identify key scenarios where mobile can work effectively with our portal."

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